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A Quick & Easy Guide on How to Tell if Old U.S. Coins are Silver

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How Do I Know if My Old U.S. Coins are Silver?

Today we’re going to discuss another frequently asked question regardind silver coins, which is “how do I know if my old U.S. coins are silver”?

This is a good question and one that we’ll discuss in further detail below.

The United States began producing silver coins in 1794 and for a period of 170 years minted all dimes, quarters, and half dollars with 90% silver content. The last year U.S. coins contained 90% silver was in 1964. US 90% Silver Coins Dimes and quarters minted after 1964, unless part of a silver proof set, don’t contain any silver content. Rather, these coins are a combination of nickel and copper, which is referred to as clad coins.

A common misconception is that pre-1965 nickels also contain silver content.  This isn’t the case, with the exception of nickels minted during the war years of 1942-1945. These coins have a lower silver content of 35% silver and can be identified by a large mint mark on theWar Nickel 35% silver coin mint mark reverse of the coin above the Monticello.

Unlike U.S. dimes and quarters, silver wasn’t completely eliminated from U.S. half dollars until 1971; however, the silver content was reduced in 1965 from 90% to 40%. These are commonly referred to as silver clad coins, as they contain part silver and part nickel and copper. These coins can usually be identified by a darker shade of gray on the edge versus the solid silver edge seen with 90% silver.

Silver dollars are slightly different from the previously discussed coins, as 90% silver dollars were only minted until 1935. Silver dollars minted from 1921 – 1935 are known as Peace Dollars and silver dollars minted prior to this time, beginning in 1878, are commonly referred to as Morgan Dollars. Morgan silver dollars are some of the most widely collected coins in the industry.

The first silver dollars issued after 1935 were Eisenhower silver dollars, beginning in 1971. Eisenhower silver dollars issued for general circulation are composed of nickel copper. The only “true” silver Eisenhower silver dollars, which areeisenhower 40% silver coin vs copper nickel coin 40% silver, were produced by the San Francisco Mint and were only available for purchase directly from the mint. These coins can be identified by a “S” mint mark on the obverse of the coin. Over the years, some of these coins have been removed from the cello or acrylic packaging and used in circulation, but by and large, most Eisenhower silver dollars that you find in circulation today are the nickel-copper variety.

We hope that this short piece has helped to answer any questions that you might have regarding the silver content of your U.S.  coins. We’ll discuss international silver coins, commonly referred to as World or Foreign coins in a future article.

Atlanta Gold and Coin Buyers is a regular buyer of all of the coins that we highlighted above, including but not limited to foreign, international, world, and commemorative silver and gold coins. If you’re interested in selling your coins, give us a call today at 404-236-9744 to schedule a professional evaluation and appraisal.

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Tony Davis
Tony Davis
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Tony frequently writes on various economic and numismatic related topics affecting the coin and bullion markets and has been published on some of the industry’s leading websites, including Coin Week, the American Numismatic Association, Coin Collector, Coinflation, and Coin Auctions Help, just to name a few. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin’s website at atlantagoldandcoin.com to obtain additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at sales@atlantagoldandcoin.com or at 404-236-9744

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